The Healthier Option

The gluten-free craze is no new trend. For nearly a decade people have been removing the protein from their menu – many with the hope of dropping a few extra pounds.

And the restrictive diet trend is still going strong. Case in point: Pizza Hut has finally hopped on the gluten-free bandwagon, announcing that it will offer gluten-free pies at almost half of their United States chains by the end of the month.

While promising news for those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance who want to enjoy an occasional slice, there’s no doubt that those looking for a healthier option may be tempted by the new menu addition.

Despite years of debate, it’s still a common misconception that removing gluten from your diet is a quick-fix weight loss trick. But unless you have a gluten intolerance, choosing only gluten-free foods is not necessarily going to benefit you and could certainly make meal planning more difficult.

“A gluten-free diet is a diet that does not include gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley,” says Tricia Thompson, RD, a dietitian based in Manchester, Mass., who focuses on developing gluten-free eating programs for people with celiac disease. “It is a medically prescribed diet for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.”

People who are sensitive to gluten may have gastrointestinal distress to varying degrees as well as joint pain and skin rashes. Thompson says that many people are living with some degree of gluten sensitivity but have never been diagnosed, which is why you may have heard from friends that they felt much better after cutting the gluten out of their diet.

But Thompson emphasizes it is a much better idea to get a simple blood test from your doctor before you take that step. That way, you will know for sure if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Be aware that getting tested after you have switched to gluten-free foods won’t reveal your sensitivity. You must be testing while you are still eating a non-restricted diet.